Forgotten Heroes of World War II Cover

Forgotten Heroes of World War II

Personal Accounts of Ordinary Soldiers—Land, Sea, and Air

Thomas E. Simmons

Taylor Trade, New York, 2014, 326 pages

Book Review published on: January 17, 2017

Forgotten Heroes of World War II provides the reader with fourteen graphic, personal, emotional, and compelling accounts of the ordinary American soldier, sailor, airman, and marine as each did his job surviving the unimaginable horrors of World War II. Highlighting significant battles in every theater of the war, the book collectively tells the story of the ordinary American man who volunteered to fight for his country and who was thrust into an environment where he witnessed the devastation of war, up close and personal. As soldiers are reluctant to talk about their service in war, the author does an excellent job gaining the confidence of these everyday military heroes as shown with his skillful narration of their stories. In each personal account, the reader is transformed to that air, land, or sea battlefield. Each experience is graphically described, and readers can almost feel as if they were there.

The book is well written, well organized, and interesting to read. It is recommended for undergraduate or graduate studies in leadership, ethics, and history. Although not exclusively for military readers, it provides many examples of ethical dilemmas in war appropriate for military professional development, at any level. Be forewarned that it contains graphic detail of the horrors of war, death of close friends, stories of survival at all costs, and extraordinary courage. The book highlights the extraordinary brotherhood of the military at war, where service members are literally fighting for their own survival and that of their brothers on their left and right.

The volume of casualities associated with every battle highlighted in the book is staggering. The number of casualities suffered by the 94th Bomb Group, who took part in the bombing campaign against Germany, was shocking. In all, 163 aircraft and 1,453 airmen were missing, wounded, or killed. During eighty-one days of fighting, Okinawa was secured, but at a cost of 65,000 wounded, dead, or missing; 26 ships sunk and 368 damaged; and 768 aircraft lost. After the infamous Battle of the Bulge, American losses totaled 8,607 dead, 47,139 wounded, and 21,144 missing or captured. Finally, the U.S. Marine 4th Infantry Division suffered 9,098 men dead or wounded in their victory over the Japanese on the island of Iwo Jima. All told, the total amounted to one-half the division’s strength.

Simmons does not pull any punches as he dutifully transcribes the vivid memories of these rank-and-file heroes. He graphically describes the intensity, gore, and lethality of war. There is a historical context with every vignette. This allows readers to understand the significance of the battle in relation to the overall success and eventual termination of the war. The human dimension of leadership, personal survival, fear of the unknown, and selfless service is humbling. No doubt, the lingering effects on the individuals are overwhelming.

Book Review written by: Col. Michael R. Martinez, U.S. Army, Retired, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas